Photography Ethics, Richard Prince And NFTs, Whatever The Hell They Are

NFT big

Since late last month, April 25 in fact, I have been periodically researching the topic of NFTs or “nonfungible tokens“. The damn things were back in the news yesterday when a digital-only photograph of supermodel Emily Ratajkowski standing in front of a photograph of herself with a smaller, different photograph of herself in the corner sold at auction at Christie’s for $140,000 ($175,000 after fees). Here’s Yahoo!’s description:

It’s not that the photo can be seen only by the buyer or even that the buyer can physically mount it in a frame (though one supposes the buyer could project it on a wall or screen and put a frame around the projection); it’s that the equivalent of the certificate verifying the authenticity of the digital file of the main photo is unique. It’s really the certificate that cannot be replaced exactly by a copy….NFTs have recently enjoyed a heyday. Nonfungible.com, which tracks such sales, shows massive spikes through the first quarter of 2021 over the last quarter of 2020, with sales volume reportedly in the range of $2 billion already this year.

Right. I can read that over and over, and it still makes no sense. As far as I can tell, these are like digital tulip bulbs from the Dutch tulip craze crossed with cyber-currency, and people who have so much money they don’t know what to do with it are buying what amounts to metadata as investments. But I may be completely wrong. I eventually gave up on trying to understand NFTs when my sock drawer started looking taking to me.

There is are underlying ethics issues, however. Ratajkowski created her NFT in part to troll Richard Prince, a photographer who has exploited the blurry ethics and copyright laws involving photography to make a lot of money and to infuriate many people, especially celebrities like Ratajkowski. Prince is the master of the digital age of Appropriation Art. When Andy Warhol essentially copied the design of a Campbell’s Tomato Soup can and made millions from it, that was the beginning of the trail of metaphorical bread crumbs that led to Prince. Thousands of photographs are placed online every day and appear all over the web, to be copied and re-used in on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook and many other cyber-spaces. It is often impossible to track down the original photograph or its source even if one wants to give it attribution or ask permission to use it from the creator—this is something I do know something about, as I deal with it every day. Taking an individual’s image, however, treating it as one’s own and selling it is widely regarded a breach of photography ethics, and arguably a breach of law. “Fine Art,” however, creates a large loophole, and in the loophole dwells the much despised Richard Prince.

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Wednesday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/18/2020: The Betraying Friend, The Abusive Model, The Grandstanding Lawyer, And The Partisan CEO

Several of these items could support stand-alone posts, I suppose, but I have bigger metaphorical fish to fry. I’ve also figured out that traffic would look better if I broke some of these 800-1000 word posts into multiple 400-500 word bites, but to hell with it: a post should be as long as it has to to make the points I want to make. Traffic has also been excellent lately: from Election Day through yesterday EA has had the best extended streak since 2017. As usual with such surges, this has involved some quirks. For example, the post about Margaret Thatcher’s favorite poem has been leading all posts in clicks for three days. I didn’t see that coming…

1. Ethics Quiz: Which is more unethical, the creep who offers such tales out of school, or the publication that gives her a platform?

The entire genre of former school mates coming forward with unflattering and ancient anecdotes about political figures is unethical. Now that Ivanka Trump’s father is likely to be out of the White House next year, her seventh grade friend Lysandra Ohrstrom decided it was a safe to reveal what a creep the First Daughter was as a 13-year-old, because so few of us lacked a functioning ethics compass at that age. She also decided that she would enjoy being interviewed on various Trump-hating TV shows, I assume.

Why the woman continued to stay friends with someone she now says was an elitist snot is a mystery; yes, some of Lysandra’s tales impugn adult Ivanka as well as the child version.

One of her earliest memories of Ivanka is her blaming a fart on a less popular classmate. The monster! In their twenties, Ivanka asked Ohrstrom for a book suggestion and when her friend suggested “Empire Falls,” replied, “Why would you tell me to read a book about fucking poor people?” Ohrstrom also recalls Ivanka once telling her “You’ve really turned into a Marxist” during a discussion about affordable housing in Manhattan.

Is there anyone who has ever lived who doesn’t have embarrassing incidents that occurred early their lives and that they trust that the family and friends who witnessed them have the decency and loyalty not to inform the world? Ohstrom’s ignorance of the Golden Rule and her pathetic lunge for 15 minutes of fame tell us more about her character than reveal anything relevant about Ivanka Trump.

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The Left Is Going Nuts Over The Alabama, Georgia And Ohio Abortion Bills. It’s Hard To Like Them (Or Respect Them) When They Are Going Nuts

Last week, CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, who was once a respectable, perceptive commentator  but who has apparently been driven over the edge by Donald Trump,  claimed that the Alabama Human Life Protection Act will end Roe v. Wade. As I have written here, the law is 100% unconstitutional based on existing law. I doubt that it will even reach the Supreme Court. It will be struck down in lower Courts, and SCOTUS will decide that there is no legal controversy. Toobin, however, decided to use his perch to fearmonger, and shamelessly:

Roe v. Wade is gone and every woman in Alabama who gets pregnant is gonna be forced to give birth soon. And that’s gonna be true in Alabama, it’s gonna be true in Missouri, it’s gonna be true, probably, in Georgia. And that’s what the law is because that’s what the Presidential election was about, in part, last time.”

Let’s see: false, highly unlikely, false, false, and false. Nor can anyone seriously argue that the 2016 election was “about” abortion. The Pew Research Center polled voters about their top concerns, and here were the results:

I count abortion as 11th on the list. Toobin’s statement is fake history and fake news. It is simply false. He blathered on…

“This is what this fight has been about, for years. I think the legislators were very smart, they waited until they got five votes on the Supreme Court and now they’re gonna push this thing through. And Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch are gonna be joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, and this is a victory that Rick (Santorum) and others have been fighting for decades and they’ve won and they should celebrate.”

I don’t know why Toobin just didn’t scream, “ARRRRRGH! WE’RE DOOMED! DOOMED!” and leave it at that. He has no idea how the justices will vote, and since he has proven himself of late to have become an hysterical, partisan hack, there is no reason to take his analysis seriously.

More seriously, however, than model Emily Ratajkowski, whose protest of the Alabama law involved  posting a nude photo of herself on social media, which she has done before when there wasn’t an abortion bill to protest. I think she just likes posting nude and near-nude photos of herself, not that I can blame her. This isn’t quite nude, but you get the idea…

Boy, THAT will punish those men who don’t respect female autonomy!

Emily wrote this to accompany her “punishment”:

“This week, 25 old white men voted to ban abortion in Alabama even in cases of incest and rape. These men in power are imposing their wills onto the bodies of women in order to uphold the patriarchy and perpetuate the industrial prison complex by preventing women of low economic opportunity the right to choose to not reproduce. The states trying to ban abortion are the states that have the highest proportions of black women living there. This is about class and race and is a direct attack on the fundamental human rights women in the US deserve and are protected by under Roe vs. Wade.”

Our bodies, our choice.

Well, you just have to do better than that, and if you can’t, then  shut up. (And remember, I do not advocate overturning Roe at this point.)

  • Attacking legislators for their age and gender marks the model as a hypocrite and a bigot, though a common variety within the current American Left.
  • I’ve discussed the “incest and rape” fallacy here many times. If the issue is human life and when it begins, incest and rape are irrelevant to the discussion. A life is a life, and how or why it begins doesn’t change the value of the life. When someone signals that they don’t comprehend this, that tells me, and should tell everyone, that they haven’t thought very hard about what they are protesting, or that they aren’t very bright. Either way, if an advocate on either side of the debate goes in that dumb direction, I’m disregarding them. It’s static and ethics pollution.
  • “Uphold the patriarchy” is another bit of nonsense cant, about as serious or persuasive as the lyrics of “Imagine.” It is a buzz phrase for anti-male bigotry, nothing more, nothing less.
  • These men are asserting the government’s duty to protect the lives of citizens. Their position is that when women use their bodily autonomy to kill an unborn child, that should be considered a crime, just as when they use their autonomy to shoot someone. The only way someone like Ratajkowski can claim that the objective of such laws is to oppress women is to completely ignore the other life involved in this ethical conflict. Doing so  is intellectually dishonest or stunningly ignorant.
  • If these laws are rooted in racism, why would they seek  to protect the disproportional number of black fetuses aborted in those states?
  • Women can choose not to reproduce, completely effectively, right now. Nobody is telling any woman she has to reproduce. See, Emily, “The Handmaiden’s Tale” is fiction, just like “The Walking Dead.” The idea is that if you have created a living human being, you can’t then kill it or delegate killing it to someone else, no matter how much hardship avoiding the murder option might mean. Starting that prohibition from conception is unworkable, but later? That’s a utilitarian necessity.
  • The fundamental human right that must take precedence over all others is the right to live.